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GPD Internal Affairs report contradicts claims in Facebook post

Screenshot of the video from Chanae Jackson’s Facebook post

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

A Facebook post by Chanae Jackson has been circulating widely, showing video of an arrest by Gainesville Police Department (GPD) Officer Bobby White from 2014. The post says the video is an example of “Police Brutality” and further claims that it shows an illegal traffic stop of a 15-year-old teenager. Jackson says, “The incident did major damage to this child’s mouth that had to be repaired.” The post further says, “IN GAINESVILLE, Black children get arrested for walking down the street, beaten for asking illegitimate questions, and can easily be killed for calling for help.”

In response, GPD posted a statement on Facebook that said, “The investigation concluded that Officer White did not violate any State Law or Departmental Policy and the complaint was deemed Unfounded. In addition to the internal review, the State Attorney’s Office reviewed this case. They did not find any law violations committed by Officer White and his arrest of the juvenile was legal, but declined to prosecute the case.” The statement goes on to describe measures Chief Jones has taken to improve his officers’ interactions with juveniles.

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We obtained a copy of the Internal Affairs (IA) Investigative Report about the incident, which occurred on December 27, 2014. According to the report, Officer White stopped a juvenile male who had run a stop sign on a bike at 9:40 p.m. White also informed the juvenile that he did not have the proper lighting on his bike.

White asked the juvenile to stand in front of his patrol car, and the juvenile initially did so but then backed away. White then asked the juvenile 9 times to sit down on the curb and also called for backup. White explained in his IA interview that, based on his body language and failure to comply with his commands, he was concerned the juvenile would try to flee on foot. The juvenile had also stated that he didn’t have any ID with him. The juvenile stated in his IA interview that he didn’t want to sit down on the ground because they were near a convenience store that often has drug paraphernalia on the ground.

White decided, based on the juvenile’s refusal to obey his commands, to arrest the juvenile for resisting without violence. The juvenile had placed both hands on the hood of the patrol car, but the video shows that when White tried to handcuff him, he arched his back, and White pushed him forward, toward the hood of the car, to be able to handcuff him.

The IA report says, “On two occasions it appears that [the juvenile] is pushed forward onto the hood of the patrol car by Ofc. White. A slow motion review of the video showed that [the juvenile’s] face did not to make contact with the hood of the patrol car. [The juvenile] had long dreads and as his dreads fell forward and it made it difficult to see clearly lack of contact to the car. [The juvenile] also appeared to have one decorative object in his hair which contributed to the loud noise on the hood when he was pushed forward.”

The video referred to here appears to be from Officer White’s in-car camera.

The IA review did not find any improper use of police control techniques. The case against the juvenile was ultimately dismissed due to “insufficient evidence to sustain a conviction.”

Although the incident happened on December 27, 2014, the juvenile did not submit a complaint until May 21, 2015, after the cell phone video of the incident had circulated. When the juvenile was interviewed by IA, he stated that his retainer had been broken when he was arrested, and he stated that his back had been sore following the arrest.

The investigating officer, Lieutenant Schibuola, stated that the juvenile signed a waiver that allowed GPD to access his medical records, and Schibuola obtained his dental records from Shands Pediatric Dentistry. The dental records included an entry on January 6, 2015, with no mention of damage to the retainer. On January 14, 2015, there was an entry that said, “Emergency – pt reports appliance fell out while eating a big mac. Appliance removed and rebounded [sic].” The report notes that both of these entries appear to contradict the statement that the retainer was broken when he was arrested.

Also, the intake records provided by the Juvenile Detention Center state that the juvenile was asked, “Do you have any health complaints such as sickness or pain at the present time?” and the answer was “No.” The report concludes, “Based on all the provided documentation there are no indications that show [the juvenile] was injured due to his arrest.”

The report concludes that the traffic stop was “valid and lawful, as it captured [the juvenile] running the stop sign as he crossed NE 8th Ave.” Also, the assigned State Attorney did not find the arrest to be unlawful but did not think it was worthwhile to take the case to court. The Operational Skills Unit “found that the actions of Ofc. White were within policy.”

The only suggestion that Officer White could have done things differently comes in this section: “Future training will stress the importance that when possible and practical officers should wait for back up before going hands on with a subject. The possibility that a subject will not resist or that a lower level of force will be needed improves with more officers on scene.”

The report also states that Officer White offered to meet with the juvenile to explain why he took the actions he did, but there is no indication that the juvenile agreed to the meeting. The report ends with, “In conclusion the allegation of Improper Contact is UNFOUNDED.”

Looking back at the claims by Ms. Jackson, the IA report refutes her statements that the traffic stop was illegal and that the incident did “major damage to the child’s mouth.” The juvenile was also not arrested for “walking down the street” and was not beaten.

We contacted Officer White, but GPD has not given him permission to speak publicly about the incident.

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